After the unfortunate Note 7 misadventure, Samsung comes back strong with the Galaxy S8. From the product marketing campaign execution, Samsung has done well to regain consumer confidence. I reckon while Samsung may lose a handful of ex-owners, they have gained new users with the Galaxy S8 and S8+.
What’s not to like about the S8? It has the most number of features and functions on a smartphone, practically a Swiss Army knife of mobile phones (except no IR blaster). It has a comprehensive ecosystem, called Galaxy Plus, that expands the usefulness of the S8 – like DeX Station (S8 becomes a desktop), Gear VR with Controller (S8 becomes a VR machine), Samsung Flow app (S8 interacts with other Samsung tablets seamlessly), Gear 360 camera, wireless fast charging, two wireless payment protocols (NFC, MST).
So, what is there not to like about the S8?
The following list of things I do not like are not deal breakers. I guess there is really nothing significantly bad about the S8, so I could only nitpick.
The S8 is rated to be the most fragile, most breakable smartphone. Hence, it is extremely risky to use it without a casing. I managed to get by for over a week without one, but I had to be extremely mindful when handling the phone. Using naked, it feels great, thin and curvy. Using with casing, it loses that special feeling.
Solution: get a casing.
Out-of-Reach Fingerprint Sensor
I have to give it to Samsung. All other smartphones have just one biometric feature, but Samsung has three – fingerprint, retina, and facial. Among the 3, the facial recognition is the fastest and most convenient, but least secure. Retina scanning is actually quite fast too, but only if you aim accurately. It is quite hard to unlock while in motion. The fingerprint scanning is unfortunately positioned at an awkward position, resulting in frequent frustrating misses. If you could make sure you place the finger at the right position, the sensor will unlock quickly too.
Fortunately, the camera glass element is treated with oleophobic coating, hence more resistant to smudges. So, not to worry if you frequently mistake the camera for fingerprint sensor.
Solution: use facial recognition for unlocking phone. When using Samsung Pay, fingerprint or retina sensor can still be invoked for better security.
Accidental touching the curved edges of the display
I have to admit, the instances of accidental touches on the edges are fewer, but it still happens, and I often got baffled at why my on-screen presses did not work the way I wanted, until I realised one of my fingers holding the phone is touching the edge of the screen resulting in non-response of the other working finger.
Solution: get a casing, which will allow your fingers to rest without contacting the screen.
I have no qualms about Samsung coming up with Bixby, which can be rather useful. My issue is that Samsung created a special hardware button just for Bixby, and that is an overkill. The button is strategically positioned where my left hand thumb would be and it results in frequent presses as I tried to get a grip of the S8 to prevent it from slipping off my hands.
Solution: install a free app to remap the Bixby button.
The Samsung S8 works with so many perpherals, like Gear VR with Controller. Connecting them drains battery quickly and generates excessive heat, and might trigger an auto-shutdown by S8 to prevent overheating. It is great to be able to do 360 live videos, but only if you have enough battery to last the day after a few sessions.
Solution: carry battery packs and charge the S8 when convenient. Play Gear VR in an air-con room and plug to a power source.
Gear 360 (2017)
The new Gear 360 was almost perfect. Rated splash proof, the design is round and lovable, the LCD display provides useful information like remaining shots and battery life. It even works with iOS devices, but ironically does not work with other Android smartphones (looks like I can’t upgrade my LG 360 CAM – it’s a great cam anyway). The design is also top-heavy, and I find it tends to drop when placed on small monopods. The worst part is that the lenses protrude and most likely to bear the brunt of the impact.
Solution: take really good care of it.
In Conclusion: No Problem!
To be completely honest, the Samsung Galaxy S8 is a superb premium smartphone. It offers so much fabulous features and functions that consumers buy it for those advantages. For those issues indicated above, they are minor inconveniences that I am sure most consumers are happy to ignore them, more so when there are practical solutions to eliminate some of my complains.
Critics like me might scrutinize the spec and question the value, but most of the consumers just want the latest and the prettiest products to brandish. S8 and S8+ are factually the king of smartphone with the most features and one of the fastest mobile processors, hence it commands the premium retail price. It is the smartphone that consumers deserve, but might not be the smartphone that everyone needs.